The healthcare system is designed to help sick people get well. But what if we could use emerging health technology to prevent illness in the first place? Or to identify risk factors that healthcare providers and patients could work together to resolve?
Now that’s the kind of healthcare system we all want to see. And with new innovations in telemedicine, specifically telecardiology, it may be possible.
Electrocardiograms (ECGs) measure and record electrical activity in the heart. For years this technology has been used to check for signs of heart disease or irregular heart function. But only recently has the electrocardiogram been studied as a preventive form of care.
Keep reading to learn how the ECG is powering preventive telecardiology.
The Rise of Telecardiology
Telecardiology is simply the introduction of telemedicine into the field of cardiology. Medical professionals all over the world can listen and interpret the results of a test without leaving their office. It allows remote specialists to analyze data and manage patient care from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
But how does it work?
Imagine this – a patient in a small rural town visits a doctor at a local clinic because they have concerns about their heart health. The patient has an electrocardiogram (ECG) but there is not a qualified cardiologist to interpret the results. So, the results are transmitted through the telephone to a specialist in a major city 100 miles away.
Then the specialist interprets the results and finds that the heart is enlarged likely due to high blood pressure. She recommends to the local doctor that the patient changes his lifestyle with a heart-healthy diet and exercise program. The doctor at the local clinic discusses this with the patient and the patient prepares to make changes.
In this example, telecardiology is useful because there are not available specialists in every city and town in the country. But there are other benefits of telecardiology too.
Being able to shift cardiac care to a remote setting saves time, money, resources, and hopefully, patient lives. At the center of this telecardiology revolution is the ECG. Keep reading to learn more.
The Electrocardiogram (ECG)
The ECG is a diagnostic tool. It uses electrodes (conductive pads) that are attached to the body to measure and record the electrical activity of the heart. ECGs can help medical professionals diagnose ischaemic heart disease, cardiac arrhythmia, and other heart conditions.
Another form of ECG is the stress ECG. It measures heart activity while a patient is under stress. During the stress ECG, a patient engages in some type of physical activity before the ECG to identify abnormalities.
ECGs are recommended for patients with a high risk of heart disease, such as individuals with high blood pressure. Patients with cardiac symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat or chest pain may also undergo an ECG. ECGs can happen at primary care facilities, but they are usually part of secondary care – meaning it costs more money and takes more time to get results.
Some primary care facilities have the ability to conduct and interpret the result of an ECG right away. However, there are also many primary care facilities that do not have this capability. Their lack of budget, staff, technology, or resources prevents it. Also, facilities that do ECGs may not have a cardiologist to interpret and recommend treatment strategies.
Introducing the ECG into existing telecardiology practices presents a new opportunity to close the gap in healthcare between primary care and secondary care for heart disease.
Using the ECG in the Telecardiology Setting
So, how can healthcare providers and healthcare facilities use the ECG as part of a growing telecardiology movement? And why would this be so meaningful for preventive medicine?
First, here is how ECGs and telecardiology intersect. The ECG device codes the results of the test into a series of sounds. The sounds play via telephone to the telecardiology service. The sounds are then decoded to show interpretable results. The cardiologist or other specialist will provide a report over the phone or videoconference.
Finally, the cardiologist will send a written report with the results via secure email or fax. All data and reporting for each patient are stored so that it’s accessible during future patient visits or testing.
This process has a number of benefits for healthcare providers, administrative staff, and patients. First, it saves time. And along with saving time comes saving money.
It also allows for better patient management on behalf of primary care doctors. Continuity of care makes patients feel more confident about their care and hopefully increases their adherence to medical advice.
So far, the introduction of ECG to preventive telecardiology is promising!
Wearable Telecardiology Technology
What if your doctor could monitor your cardiac activity at any time from any location? With remote monitoring, this is possible. Patients have a wearable device much like a smartwatch or activity tracker that is constantly measuring ECG signals. The signals transmit to a smartphone which stores all the data.
From the smartphone, data can be shared with a remote server. Healthcare providers can then see real-time data and analysis from the ECG reading. They can also detect abnormalities that might signal a problem. So instead of waiting for the patient to develop symptoms, the doctor is already alerted of the risk based on the read-out from the watch.
Join the Future of Health Technology
The landscape of healthcare and healthcare technology changed forever with the rise of telehealth in 2020. Diagnostics, testing, treatment, and disease management were all transformed in order to help patients remotely.
Telecardiology is an evolving field of medicine. And researchers and medical professionals continue to discover new ways to deliver care to people with heart disease. The electrocardiogram being at the forefront of this research and evaluation.
Looking to work with a telecardiology expert or learn more about hiring remote specialists? Contact us at (888) 317-0776 or request a free consult online.